Consumer Confidence Falls, Breaking String of Increases

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) _ Consumer confidence fell in February after a three-month string of increases, the Conference Board said Tuesday in a survey suggesting that Americans' faith in the rebounding economy may be faltering a bit.

The research group said it was premature to attach any significance to a one-month reading in the widely followed monthly survey of consumer attitudes because February's results may reflect nothing more than the depressing impact of frigid weather.

Still, the results were an early economic indicator for the month. They included responses taken after Federal Reserve's move Feb. 4 to raise interest rates for the first time in five years, a move that already has led to more expensive consumer loans.

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress Tuesday, didn't rule out more such increases in interest rates as part of the central bank's effort to combat any resurgence of inflation.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, derived from answers to questions sent to 5,000 households nationwide, fell to 80.8 from a revised reading of 82.6 in January. The index totaled 79.8 in December, 71.9 in November and 60.5 in October.

Fabian Linden, head of the research group's consumer research unit, attributed the decline to lower optimism about future business conditions and the outlook for jobs. He characterized the dip as "very slight. …